Chilled noodles are the perfect summer meal, but which ones reign supreme?

Our Japanese-language reporter P.K. Sanjun wants to do only one thing when the weather is as hot as it has been these days — eat hiyashi men, or cold noodles. Soba, udon, spaghetti, egg noodles — he’ll gladly eat them all, especially if they’re cold.

Luckily for him, he didn’t have to go very far to find some cold noodles to satiate his craving, as his local branch of 7-Eleven was on hand to save the day with a whopping eight kinds of cold noodles to choose from!

Of course, P.K. simply couldn’t just choose one from the delicious-looking array of cold noodles, so he decided to buy all eight and do a taste test to find out which one was the Chilled Champion, a title that he’d just made up right there on the spot, but seemed prestigious nonetheless.

First up in the inaugural Chilled Championship Battle was the Hiyashi Chuka (Chinese-style chilled ramen noodles) In a Refreshing Soy Sauce Broth (550 yen [US$4.12]).

While P.K is a huge fan of hiyashi chuka, he never usually gets it from a convenience store or restaurant, as he tends to prefer homemade hiyashi chuka to store-bought versions. So P.K didn’t have high expectations for this contender.

But 7-Eleven’s hiyashi chuka was surprisingly delicious. The cucumbers and bean sprouts were crisp, but the real hero of the dish was the soy sauce broth. The taste was, as promised, refreshing. The level of tanginess was, in P.K.’s expert opinion, perfection. In fact, it was so delicious that P.K. even contemplated buying it again in the future.

Next up to the plate was the Tomita Tsukemen with Thick Tonkotsu and Shellfish (691 yen).

This dish is part of an annual collaboration between 7-Eleven and Tomita Ramen, a restaurant that’s often quoted as one of Tokyo’s best ramen shops, which accounts for the slightly higher price tag.

As expected of a collaboration with a restaurant as prestigious as Tomita Ramen, it was delicious, and the seafood stock broth had a taste that would appeal to everyone. P.K. expected the noodles to have a strong impact, but actually they were pretty standard-tasting noodles.

▼ Next up, the Chilled Bukkake Udon with Three Kinds of Tempura (560 yen)

P.K. was pretty pleased to see some udon in the mix, and as the Bukkake Udon was the sole competitor of the day to feature udon, P.K. was excited to find out how it would hold up.

While the udon was great, the tempura (which consisted of deep fried crab sticks, maitake mushrooms and fried chicken) didn’t really go well with udon. It was an ambitious combination of foods, but one that sadly didn’t stick the landing, in P.K’s opinion.

What about the next contender, the Cold Soba Noodles with Tororo (Grated Yam) (420 yen)?

Cold soba noodles are an absolute summer classic, and the phrase, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ can be perfectly applied here. As hard as he tried, P.K. couldn’t find a single thing to nitpick about this meal; the grated yam was smooth, the okra was deliciously gooey and the dried seaweed and wasabi were the cherry on top.

The level of perfection from this dish was so overwhelming that P.K. would happily eat it every day from now on.

A tough act to follow for sure, but up next is the Bang-Bang Chicken with a Spicy Sesame Dressing (470 yen)

Mixing shredded chicken with a spicy sesame dressing, bang-bang chicken is another safe summer staple, and 7-Eleven’s version ticked all the boxes.

It was exactly what P.K. had imagined it would taste like; not exactly life changing, but the spicy sesame dressing was too good to overlook. It got two thumbs up from P.K.

But while the last two dishes were classics, P.K. was to turn his attention towards something a little more unusual with this Pasta Salad with Chicken, Vegetables and Spicy Cod Roe Cream (300 yen).

While there didn’t seem to be much to eat in this dish, with the amount of salad and spaghetti (hidden under the salad) a bit on the small side, this was by far the most delicious dish P.K. had eaten so far today, due in no small part to the spicy cod roe cream. So delicious was it that P.K. reckons it would go well with fries, on bread, with rice… the list is endless. The pasta has an ‘aroma of shiso (perilla leaf)’, which P.K. found really tasty.

Sure, the salad might not have looked as fancy as the others and there might not have been as many ingredients, but all in all this was a top notch bowl of cold noodles.

Next up was the Pasta Salad with Pork, Vegetables and Sesame Sauce (330 yen).

Like the bang-bang chicken noodles, this dish featured a sesame dressing. There was a healthy amount of pork in the bowl, but if P.K. were being honest, the overall taste was pretty average. 

It was tasty enough, sure, but it didn’t exceed P.K.’s expectations at all.

Hoping to finish strong, the last bowl in the line-up was the Pasta Salad with Chicken, Vegetables and Oil-free Yuzu Dressing (320 yen).

At a first glance, this one definitely looked like it was going to be the best tasting out of the whole bunch, so P.K. had saved it until the end.

Unfortunately, it turned out to be pretty unexceptional.

It was alright, but even as he was eating it, P.K. knew this would be the first and only time he ever bought this dish. The fried chicken already had a sweetness to it that made the tartar sauce unnecessary. It just felt like a huge mix up of ingredients that didn’t really match up well.

But with the exception of the final dish, all of 7-Eleven’s cold noodle offerings were really quite impressive. P.K’s top picks are the hiyashi chuka, the grated yam tororo soba and the spicy cod roe pasta salad.

“But P.K., who is the Chilled Champion?” you may be thinking. Well, dear reader, it’s still too soon to declare a winner, as P.K.’s next mission will be to try the cold noodles on offer at other convenience stores like Lawson and Family Mart. ‘Tis the season, after all!

So while you wait for future cold noodle updates from P.K., why not take some advice from another cold noodle fanatic, Go Hatori, and eat some cold noodles in the shower?

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